William Wordsworth’s great long autobiographical poem in blank verse, The Prelude, has many great passages, and this is one of the best, from the first book of the poem, describing the poet’s schooldays and his time among nature. The description of the hill looming up as a young Wordsworth rows his boat – finding freedom on the open water – comes close to that key Romantic concept of the Sublime. If this excerpt whets your appetite for the whole poem, you can read that here.
One evening (surely I was led by her)
I went alone into a Shepherd’s Boat,
A Skiff that to a Willow tree was tied
Within a rocky Cave, its usual home.
‘Twas by the shores of Patterdale, a Vale
Wherein I was a Stranger, thither come
A School-boy Traveller, at the Holidays. Read the rest of this entry
The best poems by John Clare
John Clare (1793-1864) has been called the greatest nature poet in the English language (by, for instance, his biographer Jonathan Bate), and yet his life – particularly his madness and time inside an asylum later in his life – tends to overshadow his poetry. So here we’ve picked ten of John Clare’s best poems which offer an introduction to his idiosyncratic style and wonderful eye for detail, especially concerning the natural world.
‘First Love’. First love is powerful and stays with us, but it can be painful as well as joyous or liberating. This poem, one of John Clare’s most widely anthologised, captures this dual nature of first love and the way in which it is a loss of something – namely, innocence – as well as a gaining of something new and special. Read the rest of this entry
‘The Solitary Reaper’ is one of Wordsworth’s best-known poems. Although it’s a ballad, it didn’t appear in Wordsworth’s most famous collection, Lyrical Ballads, because he wrote it after the publication of that volume (co-authored with Samuel Taylor Coleridge) in 1798. ‘The Solitary Reaper’ appeared in Wordsworth’s 1807 collection Poems in Two Volumes. The poem has received a fair bit of critical analysis; here, we offer some notes towards a commentary on it.
The Solitary Reaper
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain; Read the rest of this entry